A “Shovel-ready” Bargain

On June 14th, analysts released figures about last year’s stimulus spending in the 41 cities and towns in Southeastern Massachusetts. The data was provided on the pages of the Patriot Ledger up in Quincy, Massachusetts, and the stated purpose behind that infusion of funds was to create and/or to save jobs. And we wholeheartedly endorsed that good intention.

Quincy, Massachusetts, by the way, was the site of the Fore River Shipyard, in bygone times one of the world’s great shipyards. In fact, some of us still feel that it was unquestionably the greatest of the great. But more on that later.

For now, let’s talk about the stimulus funding data. The total amount funneled through the State of Massachusetts to its 41 Southeastern communities came to exactly $ 211,341,253. That’s two hundred eleven million, three hundred forty one thousand, two hundred fifty three dollars, and no cents. Try writing all that on the “Payable to” line of a check. That’s a sizeable chunk of money.
Now let’s see how many jobs were created or saved by that handout. After adding up the totals – line by line, town by town, and recipient by recipient – we arrived at the grand total of … 610 jobs. Can you believe that? That money was supposed to be directed to “shovel-ready” projects … remember that nonsense? … but if there were any such projects in the published stimulus spending data, they weren’t very obvious.

So, simple arithmetic shows that $ 211,341,253 of stimulus money divided by 610 jobs means that each job created or saved is a cost to us taxpayers of $ 346,461… and about seven cents. And the “multiplier effect”? Zero. No matter how you look at it, that’s not much of a bargain.

Here’s a better one. The Fore River site mentioned above is now dormant and U.S. Maritime Administration regulations require that the location must be retained for maritime use. Instead, it’s being used as a parking area for new automobiles, and rumor has it that the current owner hopes to fill in the graving docks and wet basins in order to create space for … for who knows what? [But give credit to those in the Maritime Administration. They know it would cost taxpayers more than half-a-billion dollars to replace those graving docks and wet basins, if they were ever destroyed.]

The Maritime Administration also knows that we’ll be utilizing those facilities again. And soon. Our failing economy can only be saved by a new, and more desperately needed, Emergency Shipbuilding Program, like the ones FDR initiated to terminate the Great Depression of the 1930s. No warships this time, however, just cargo ships. And not just your run-of-the-mill cargo ship but a new, patented container ship … the likes of which the world has never seen but which we’ve patented in every country that builds ships, so that we can prevent them from competing with us.
The bottom line is that the next approximately $ 211, 341, 253 in stimulus funding will be earmarked for job creation at the once-great Fore River Shipyard. Not 610 jobs, but more than 610,000 jobs will be created with that kind of funding. And that’s a much, much better “shovel-ready” bargain.